Summary: Skills necessary for students to master in order for them to experience school and life success in an increasingly digital and connected age; includes digital literacy, traditional literacy, content knowledge, media literacy, and learning/innovation skills.
Originators & Proponents: Groups – United States Department of Education, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, MacArthur Foundation; Individuals – Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito, John Seely Brown
Keywords: collaboration, digital literacy, innovation, technology, work-life skills, readiness, interdisciplinary learning, problem-solving, ICT (information and communication technologies)
21st Century Skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills and other groups and individuals)
The 21st Century Skills initiative is an education standards and reform movement, located primarily in the United States, that is focused on improving what US public school students must learn in school so that they are better prepared to succeed in their school and career lives. The term “21st century skills" includes the following skill sets:
- Life/career skills: adaptability & flexibility, initiative & self-direction, leadership & responsibility, productivity & accountability, social & cross-cultural skills
- Core subjects: English/language arts, mathematics, arts, science, history, geography and others
- 21st century themes: civic literacy, environmental literacy, financial literacy (including economic, business, and entrepreneurial skills), global awareness, health literacy
- Information/media/technology skills: media literacy, information literacy
- Learning/innovation skills: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, problem solving
Students are expected to master these skills and understand these themes while learning core subject content in meaningful, interdisciplinary way. Teachers, administrators, schools, and districts are expected to use these guidelines, known as the P21 Framework, as a foundation for developing curriculum, assessments, and standards that they deem appropriate for their students.
Some organizations, like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, provide tools and resources for educators to use in supporting their students’ acquisition of these skills. In addition, there are also model classrooms, schools, and districts that can serve to guide others as they develop their alignment with these standards. Teachers are encouraged to create their own curriculum following the P21 Framework that would work best for their students.
For more information, see:
- Partnership for 21st Century Skills — The P21 Framework
- Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- “How do you define 21st-century learning? One question. Eleven answers." Education Weekly Teacher PD Sourcebook, October 11, 2010
- “Museums, Libraries, and 21st-century skills" — Institute of Museum and Library Services
- “21st Century Skills" — Glossary of Education Reform
- Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009).Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Mit Press.